Another week survived at the office, O readers, and Fiction Friday has come around again. I owe my Patreon patrons a chapter or two of fan fiction, and am hoping to be able to make good on that over the weekend, but at the moment my body doesn't like me very much, so I'm having a hard time concentrating on things like writing.
I was, however, able to get inspired by thinking of a folk song I've often enjoyed in the past, and today's Fiction Friday piece was the result of that inspiration. It's also something of a milestone, as I don't believe I've ever written in the universe of Killdeer for Fiction Friday before. For my holiday collections, yes, but not for the blog. So here it is, and I do hope you enjoy.
What's the song? Well, scroll to the end and you might just find out...
Amanda sat on her grandparents' terrace outside the city of Mersey, gazing up at the starry night. Two solid points of light moved steadily through the sky, starships in orbit around the world known as LP, where she'd been born and which she would shortly be leaving behind.
"I miss you, Mother, Father," she murmured into the soft night air. "I wish you were here. But you're not, and Grandmother and Grandfather are, and that's the problem..."
Centuries had passed since the human race had left its original planet, and a wide swath of the worlds of the greater galaxy had been settled, often by groups seeking to maintain particular traditions. Some of these were harmless folkways, manners of dress or dietary habits that had their roots in ancient days. Others, though equally ancient, were arguably less benign.
"'You're to be an ornament to our home, my love,'" Amanda mimicked her grandmother's fluting tones, as best she could for the snarl trying to rise in her throat. "'That's all you need to be, until you become an ornament to your husband's home, as is proper.'" She rose from her chair and began to pace around the terrace. "It's not that I mind the idea of having a husband or making a home. But the husband and the home would both have to be the ones I wanted. Mother and Father would never have forced me into anything, but they died before I was of age, so by LP's law, Grandmother and Grandfather have the right to marry me off as they please!"
And what her grandparents pleased, as Amanda knew well, was to offer her hand in marriage as a signing bonus to the captain-owner of the Yankee Clipper line of starships, which offered fast passenger service around the worlds of the greater galaxy (often named after cities, states, or provinces of the original human world, as her own home planet had been). Her grandfather's business, Princes Shipping, was mainly cargo-based, so the merger he'd proposed between the two lines would be beneficial to both.
"The trouble is, I know too much about crew conditions aboard those ships. What does it say for the man who will be my husband tomorrow morning, that he treats his workers so shamefully that only the desperate sign up to crew his ships?" Amanda leaned against the railing, staring up into the night again. "And what does it say of me," she wondered aloud, even more softly than before, "that I knew someone that desperate, and loved him?"
Before the flood which had claimed her parents' lives, Amanda had lived with them in a little house in the country. She'd known her grandparents were rich, but no questions of inheritance had arisen at that point, since her father was their younger son. Another younger son, this one of a neighboring family, had been her constant playmate until others in their little circle of friends had jokingly nicknamed them Dai-Manda.
"He was a fine pilot, so he would have been making enough to support us both by the time we came of age to marry." Amanda's hands tightened on the wood of the railing. "We didn't count on my parents dying. Or my uncle, which left me as the only heir to Princes. And we certainly didn't think my grandfather would tell lies about my Dai until Yankee Clipper was the only place he could find work! 'To save you from him, my precious girl.'" She mimicked her grandfather's smooth, unctuous tones now. "'To keep you from breaking your heart over a plausible young scoundrel, and ruining the chances I can give you.'"
Fury rose in her heart as she thought back to the snatched parting between herself and her beloved those three years ago, to the words and promises they'd traded, promises she would shortly be forced into breaking. "You mean the chances you're going to get from me, Grandfather," she hissed. "The money you'll make carting cargo for the Clipper passengers, the status you'll gain because you won this contract—because of me, Grandfather, because you're selling me to Captain Burgess! I'd have run away long since if Grandmother hadn't thrust me so constantly into the spotlight that no shuttle pilot would dare take me as a passenger—"
Her console pinged, signaling an incoming vid message. Gritting her teeth against her temper, Amanda crossed to it and looked down.
Message from the Daniel Boone, shuttle of the Davy Crockett, flagship of the Yankee Clipper line, the glowing words on the screen read. Accept/decline?
"Lovely. A courtesy call, to let me know my bridegroom is on the way." Amanda sighed and touched her finger to Accept.
An instant later, she was staring at the screen in disbelieving joy.
Adam Burgess returned his shuttle pilot's salute as he debarked at Mersey Spaceport. "And what would you like to do this evening, Evans?" he asked.
"Permission to go to church, sir?" the pilot requested crisply.
"Religious, are you?" Burgess chuckled. "Very well, permission granted. I'll be in church myself, to be made one with a special young lady. But you knew that."
"Wish you very happy, sir," said the pilot stiffly, and saluted again as the spaceport taxi pulled up. Burgess nodded casual acknowledgement and climbed into the taxi's back seat.
At the pilot's hip, his tripad warbled. He waited until Burgess's taxi was out of sight before tapping the screen to bring up the message.
Saint Nicholas's Church, it read. Ten minutes.
"I do indeed wish you very happy, sir," murmured Dai Evans, grinning to himself. "But I hope your happiness doesn't rely on being wedded to Amanda Prince, for my lovely California rides in orbit even now, awaiting only her captain and his lady..."
Stepping off the shuttle's ramp, he closed it with a command spoken into his tripad, then strode away, whistling.
His homeworld's customs had forced him to leave his beloved behind him once.
After tonight, it would never happen again.
And so it's fare thee well, my own true love;
When I return, united we will be.
It's not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me,But, my darling, when I think of thee.